Sunday, July 31, 2016

When Ikons become Idols

Sermon for the tenth Sunday after Trinity

In the History of the Church of England, there is a difficult question of how many Oecumenical Councils we should recognise. Many Anglicans believe that it's the first four, but we Anglican Catholics believe that we should affirm the first seven. Why?

We try not to be arbitrary in our Faith. What reason is there to stop at Four Councils? Reasons do exist and clearly do edify our brethren,  but Anglican Catholics seek the maximum amount of correspondence with the Primitive Church that we can. For us, this happens before East and West split. The supposed Eighth Council was only called Oecumenical until after the Great Schism. The supposed Ninth occured in 1123 after the Schism. We can therefore should accept Seven Councils as a doctrinally maximal solution.

Many good Protestants object to the Seventh Council because they claim that it seeks to sanction idolatry. St John Damascene takes pains to demonstrate that we do not worship the images depicted in Holy Images any more than we in our day and age might confuse a photograph of our loved one with the real loved one! Our Protestant brothers make sure that we have checks and balances on our behaviour, though. Idolatry is a sin, and they remind us to check our motives and make sure that we venerate Our Lady and not our favourite statue of her.

Yet, as Anglican Catholics, we offer our own challenge to the world. The Seventh Council charges us to look for God's presence in the world around us. We must look at the world ikonographically. To ignore the presence of God in created things is literally to look pornographically - literally looking according to the flesh. This is the problem with pornography - it dehumanises and fails to draw us to the reality beyond just what we see.

The same is true of our gifts and what we possess. We can see them only as what they are and use them selfishly for our self-gratificatoon, as St Paul says, we can recognise that "all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

When we seek Christ in all things, we see the world anew. We cease to see it pornographically for our own ends, and learn to see the Truth behind it, seeing it ikonographically. We need to be prepared to lose our most cherished gifts for the glory of God so that we can more truly glorify God. To fail to do so is to turn our bodies - these temples of the Holy Ghost - into dens of thieves because they seek to take glory from God.

Whatever we have and whatever we don't have suffice only to point out the reality of God in our lives. We not only need to accept our limitations but look for Our Lord through them. Then and only then will we see Him and thus find our happiness and true worth.


Auriel Ragmon said...

Vide: CV B Moss: the Church of England and the Seventh Council, Faith Press 1937
probably out of print for many years now. I think it was republished by the Episcopal Book Club in the '60s or so.
Among other things, this little 63 page booklet led me eventually to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Never had a problem with Icons, just with soupy loupy statues with bleeding hearts.....

Rdr. James Morgan
Olympia, WA

Warwickensis said...

I now have a copy of this little gem. It really does strengthen my thoughts on why the Church must be built on the Seven Oecumenical (sorry, Fr Moss - General) Councils.